The Prisoner’s Dilemma is one of the best known problems in game theory. In the classic version, two suspects of a crime are being interrogated in separate rooms. Each can either stay silent and cooperate or confess and betray. The time they will serve in prison depends on which they each choose, with no way of knowing what the other will do. As a Democrat, this race for the Party nomination feels like being in the Prisoner’s Dilemma: a strategic game about risk.
It is incomprehensible to me that any rationally thinking adult could support a candidate like Donald Trump. If I was told in 2008 that a potential presidential candidate had called for a ‘complete shutdown of Muslims’; accused Mexican immigrants of being rapists; bullied his female competitors and claimed that Hillary Clinton had nothing but her ‘woman card’: I would have thought it was a hoax. Trump is a reality television star who gets behind a podium and seems to say whatever foul, crass thought that comes into his head.
So, in my opinion, Trump is completely unelectable and obviously unfit to fill a position held by the likes of Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D Roosevelt. This leads me to the logic that I should actually support him in the primaries, as surely either Democrat candidate would obliterate him in the Presidential election? But what if the game theory doesn’t play out how I think it should and Trump doesn’t cause the demise of the Republican Party that would be rationally expected? What if we actually have President Trump? He secured a notable and ominous lead among the Republican candidates following Super Tuesday, now with 319 delegates. The nomination is his to lose.
Make no mistake, I don’t think the other Republicans are good alternatives. Ted Cruz is nasty and backwards, but he also has a law degree and political experience. I have no doubt that in office, the young establishment candidate, Marco Rubio would be the puppet for a party desperately trying to salvage itself. Democrats obviously don’t want to see any Republican in office. So theoretically, we should hope for the most ridiculous candidate to compete against our nominee. A candidate who Mitt Romney, a man who famously alienated 47% of the population, is questioning the ‘judgement’ of and saying that he is taking the American people for ‘suckers’.
On the other side, I romanticize the idea of President Bernie Sanders as much as everyone else who would like to see Washington be a little bit more socialist. Sanders’ passion on key policy issues and the way he conducts himself in politics deserves the utmost respect. Furthermore, a presidential race between two anti-establishment candidates who embody the polarization of US politics is as exciting as it is daunting. However realistically, time is more pragmatically spent hoping for President Hillary Clinton.
The dynamics in presidential election against a sole, seasoned candidate will be different to a crowded Republican primary. But victory for Clinton is still far from certain. Trump has a terrifying ability to fight back against the microscopic scrutiny that most politicians get. Trump is disliked by 60% of Americans; but Clinton is mistrusted by 60%. Neither are supported in full by even their own parties, let alone the American people.
The problem with the US political system isn’t Donald Trump, he is simply the personification of the anger of the American people. I don’t disagree with the message of anti-establishment candidates and their demands for change, but I disagree with Trump. Clinton isn’t a perfect candidate for the presidency, nor is she a shoe-in. But the other option at this rate is a terrifying prospect. So we need to hope that game theory works in our favour; as the alternative is catastrophic.
Image credit: Michael Vadon